The best drama on television is over. NEWSROOM is no more. And it all ended with one big fat Middle-Finger, aimed at Middle America – the average audience (who don’t watch shows like this for some reason). This episode brilliantly mirrors the first season in several ways. We get a rather emotional and fitting goodbye. Make note, there will be SPOILERS, especially for the previous episode.
We begin at a funeral. Then we jump cut to 3 YEARS EARLIER. A very bold decision that frames the structure for this phenomenal finale. It was 3 years ago when the NEWSROOM crew was formed (on air and off). It was 3 years ago when Will (JEFF DANIELS) was a total asshole. We are methodically introduced to the entire crew through the course of this reflective episode.
I’ll run through this episode in sections. First, we get a return of NEAL (3 years ago). Will cuts him off before he can even say his last name. Will has certainly evolved since then. However, as Neal talks about integrity in regards to ACN Digital, he brings up issues that NEWSROOM still deals with 3 years later. Will attacks Neal with venom as he says, “It’s a website. It doesn’t have integrity.” I’m sure that stung Neal – who has lofty ideals he’d like to enforce for the Internet side of the News.
PRESENT DAY… Mac (EMILY MORTIMER) takes a phone-call outside of the church funeral. She informs Will it was the results of a blood test. We get our answer as we shift back to the PAST. This is when Charlie (SAM WATERSON) pleads Will to have children. Therefore, Mac’s pregnant. I love how that answer unfolded. In the PRESENT, Will tells Mac, “This will be a good 7 months because I’m in charge of moral.” Hilarious, dry sense of humour.
BACK IN THE DAY… Charlie recruits Mac at her favourite spot: a bowling alley. It looks like Charlie orchestrated it all. He assembled a team that would fight to tell the news, and stand up for their ideals. But he also knows Mac and Will had a previous relationship. You combine that with his plea for Will to be a father, and you can see a careful composition of harmonious sheet music. Charlie orchestrated Mac’s pregnancy in a way. He made Will a dad. In the meantime, he also BIRTHED a revolution of truth seekers. He birthed a Newsroom dedicated to the public’s ACTUAL best interests. The Truth.
TODAY… JANE FONDA’s character created ACN. She built the station from the ground-up. She doesn’t like where it’s going either, with the new social media obsessed CEO. She gathers Mac to join her in a limo with this young CEO. I think she wants the truth as much as she wants money & power. Fonda coerces the CEO to enforce Charlie’s vision somehow. She says, “You have a P R problem, because you have an actual problem.”
YEARS AGO… Mac has been recruited. Now she assembles her AVENGERS. She seeks out JIM. He’s newly single, in an empty apartment devoid of furnishing. He asks her how Charlie convinced HER. She says he sent her a book: DON QUIXOTE. Charlie’s on his own “mission to civilize.” Viewers don’t know they want the truth, until they are presented with it. Like a big heavy book full of ideas and hopes thrown on the barren floors of an unfurnished apartment (re: mind).
There is another nice touch brewing under the surface. Blink and you may miss it. The Newsroom of the past has Will covering weather stories and entertainment news, rather than cold hard facts. Will discusses the finale of 24 (with Jack Bauer). Someone corrects someone, it’s the “Series Finale”. Kind of like NEWSROOM, right. I loved this meta approach. America really cared, like they were devastated, when 24 ended. No more Counter Terrorism agent torturing terrorists on a weekly basis. The public cared about its finale.
Whereas, NEWSROOM “ends with a whimper, not a bang” (to paraphrase W. C. FIELDS). This HBO series ends… and I feel like no one else cares. It’s not like CNN is talking about this one, eh. I think AARON SORKIN is saying this is what America actually wants – guns and torture and a ticking clock. That’s why I say this episode ends with a middle-finger to America’s general TV audience.
For me, Daniel’s Will McAvoy is a much better HERO than Kiefer’s Jack Bauer. Will saves the world too. He stands up for what is right. He debates ethics. He debates morality. Both heroes examine this subject in different ways. One reacts physically, one debates intellectually.
24 has gunfire and fiery explosions, while NEWSROOM sprays verbal bullets. We are pierced by the shrapnel of truth. Dialogue detonates here. Ideas are the weapon of choice.
Alas, I digress… The episode continues with Charlie’s funeral acting as a stand-in for the Death of NEWSROOM. The characters collect together and reflect on what Charlie has built. An empire serving the public. An Empire devoted to the Truth. An unflinching Empire willing to strike at the powers that be to their own detriment.
Charlie has assembled a team where everyone is willing to sacrifice – whether it’s Will’s decision to remain quiet and be imprisoned, or Neal’s decision to remodel the Internet with integrity, or Sloan’s decision to risk her career as new anchor to say what is right. Charlie is on a Crusade where the Knights are shielded by honour and attack with truth. The pen is mightier. The mind is even deadlier.
TODAY… Neal (DEV PATEL) returns from exile, 50 some days later. He makes a grand entrance by hacking the techie guy’s computer. He just shuts it down with the press of a button on his phone. Neal isn’t happy how his baby has been nurtured. He’s worked so hard to raise ACN Digital to high integrity. In his absence, it is reduced to covering entertainment. They aren’t creating BEST MOVIES lists, or as he says “Most Underrated” (cough, NEWSROOM, cough), the Digital team is making a list for most OVERrated films. They spend time coming up with reasons why GOOD things suck. This is the Internet… unfortunately. And now the Internet is influencing the actual NEWS and the stories they choose to air. Thank you, Sorkin. How long before CNN is doing this alongside their Cosby rape stories?
The emotions start to build. Tears start to form. The first emotional moment, for me, was when DON approaches Charlie’s WIFE. He feels responsible for the man’s heart attack, much like SLOAN. Her response was just so touching. Charlie didn’t want to do the story defaming the Rape App. He wanted Don to FIGHT him on it. He wanted Don to do exactly what Don did. She caps it off with giving him Charlie’s bowtie – an important symbol to the man who refuses to conform.
In an earlier moment, Charlie talked to Will about his savant grandson, who could pick up any instrument and master it within 24 hours. The song lyrics were, “How I got to Memphis.” Charlie makes sure to tell Will that his grandson interpreted the lyric as Memphis is “HERE”. Wherever Here is? The song is about how we got to Here.
This moment extends into the present day, and culminates with Will talking to that Grandson. He approaches him in the garage (full of instruments) and picks up a guitar. Will readies himself to play, “Here’s a song I know you know.” In a way, he’s telling the teenager that Charlie was proud of him and talked about him often. They play the song together. Others hear it and gather. Some even join in, like Jim and Gary. This is how they got here… It’s all because of Charlie.
The emotions continue as Will tells the Grandson he can talk to him, just like he did with Charlie, about personal issues. Will, in effect, becomes the teen’s Godfather. We see him leave with the younger grandson, hand in hand, giving us a brief glimpse of what Will McAvoy will be like as a father. A caring, wise, encouraging mentor.
Will finally gives his eulogy for Charlie. Not at the funeral, where the body was laid to rest, but the house where the man lived. He sums it up perfectly with, “You were a man, Charlie. A great big man.”
Before the episode ends, Don helps Sloan feel less guilty. She also feels responsible for causing Charlie’s heart attack. If anyone was responsible it’s the American public’s interests represented by the new CEO. In another touching moment, Don tells a white lie. He gives Sloan Charlie’s bowtie saying he wanted her to have it.
Another relationship arc gets a satisfying conclusion. Jim recommended Maggie for a field producer job in Washington. He was hesitant about commitment. He thinks this long distance apart will end the relationship. He thinks he wants that. By the end, Maggie is offered Jim’s job (as he steps into Mac’s). This would keep them in same city. Jim is fickle, and has already changed his mind. He wants her here. She focuses on herself, as she should. She will still interview for the Washington position. He counters this with offering to fly to her on weekends. He wants their relationship to work. Maggie asks why his previous long distance relationships didn’t end well. Jim perfectly replies, “Because I wasn’t in love with them.” It all ends well.
THE END… Was a perfect orchestration of editing and camera movement, guiding us through our emotions, and leading us to the future. We sweep across the NEWSROOM. We see everyone at their new positions. Don keeps his 10 o’clock job. Sloan keeps her job. Neal takes back ACN Digital. Maggie is offered Jim’s position. Jim is the new executive producer, stepping in for Mac.
He mirrors the first season. A new team assembled to tell the TRUTH on the NEWS. He leaves us wanting more. We want to see this team. We want to see their first broadcast under this new system that Charlie left for them. They inherited his mission. They inherit the wind. And just before it blows through town – the show ends. You want to see more. But you can’t. It’s over. Because America would rather watch terrorists get tortured each week on some procedural where the same exact story is told every single week.
“Are you there NETFLIX, it’s me, Margaret…”
Some streaming service, or upstart network, should pick up the NEWSROOM and continue it right where it left off. Other shows have enjoyed this sort of resurrection. I just hope this HBO series from Aaron Sorkin is one of them.
Characters and ideas should be the stuff of long-form television. Not the same situation regurgitated ad nauseam for mass consumption.
“We did the news, Will. You know how?” Charlie continues, “We just decided to.”
What did you think?
Was this a fitting farewell to an amazing show?
Did it leave you wanting more? Was the finale satisfying?
What other shows ended far too early despite their superior quality? I’m thinking of one from when I was younger…
Would you like to see more NEWSROOM on another media service of some sort?
Who was your favourite character? Favourite relationship? Favourite news story?